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Indiana Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline

Most of us will be in a motor vehicle accident at some point. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), in 2022, more than 3,300 people were seriously injured in car accidents in Indiana. Close to a thousand people died in fatal traffic accidents that same year.

Thankfully, most auto accidents are minor. The odds of you suffering severe bodily injury in a car crash are low. But that doesn't mean you won't have to file an insurance claim. If the insurance company refuses to pay your car accident claim, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Unfortunately, many people have no idea how the Indiana car accident settlement process works. They assume that all they have to do is file paperwork with the at-fault driver's car insurance company. They don't realize that the insurance carrier may deny or only pay part of your claim. If this happens, your car accident lawyer will file a car accident lawsuit against the other driver.

The good news is that just because you sue the other driver doesn't mean you'll have to go to court. More than 95% of all car accident cases settle out of court. Here, we'll explain how car accident settlements work. We'll also explain the damages your personal injury lawyer can demand on your behalf.

Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Indiana?

Indiana law requires that you file a car accident report in specific circumstances. You may face criminal charges if you don't file your report within 10 days of the crash. The State of Indiana may also suspend your driver's license.

According to Indiana Vehicle Code § 9-26-1-1.1, you must file a crash report if any of the following are true:

  • More than $1,000 in property damage
  • Any of the car accident victims suffer bodily injury or death
  • Your insurance company requires it
  • The municipality where the accident happens requires it

Indiana also requires you to submit an "Operator's Proof of Insurance." Your insurance agent must sign this form before you submit it. Like the crash report, you must submit this form within 10 days of the accident.

The best way to ensure compliance with this law is to call 911. Police will come to the accident scene and do a thorough investigation. They'll put their findings in an official police report. Your car accident lawyer will need this report to prove your case.

Indiana Car Insurance Laws

Indiana is an at-fault state on car accidents and insurance coverage. Under the at-fault system, the person at fault is liable for all losses and damages. This gives the injured party more options to recover damages.

Indiana requires all drivers to carry liability insurance. The minimum coverage levels you must have according to Indiana law are as follows:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury for multiple people per accident
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident

The state also requires you to maintain uninsured and underinsured motorists' coverage. The mandatory thresholds for these types of insurance are as follows:

  • Uninsured motorist coverage — $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident
  • Underinsured motorist coverage — $50,000 per person/$50,000 per accident

This minimum coverage might not adequately cover your entire personal injury claim. You can buy more coverage for greater protection.

Any accident victim who suffers a car accident injury has three options:

  • File a claim with their insurance company
  • File a claim with the other driver's insurance company
  • File a lawsuit against the at-fault driver

Of course, you would only file suit if the insurance companies fail to cover your damages. The insurance company will likely make you a settlement offer for less than your entire demand. The settlement amount will fall between your total losses and the insurance adjuster's initial offer.

How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Indiana?

If you suffer injuries in your car crash, you'll file a claim with the at-fault party's insurance carrier. The insurance adjuster will either pay your claim in full, pay it in part, or deny it outright. If they pay it in full, you'll get your check within a week or two.

If the insurance company denies your claim or agrees to pay only part of it, you must decide if you want to sue the other driver. If you're confident you can prove they caused the accident, it makes sense to take legal action.

Once you file your complaint, the other driver's insurance company will file an answer. Nine times out of 10, it will refuse to pay your demand. It may claim that you caused the accident. Or it may argue that you're exaggerating your injuries.

Once your car accident lawyer gets the defendant's answer, the lawyers will begin settlement negotiations. Your lawyer will go back and forth with the insurance carrier's lawyer to find a fair settlement amount.

Typically, the insurance company will make a lowball offer, and your attorney will make a counteroffer. The two sides will negotiate a settlement agreement at some point, usually well before trial. It's in everyone's best interests to settle rather than go to court.

Once your personal injury attorney and insurance company agree to a settlement, you'll sign a settlement release. Once the judge approves your settlement, the case will be over. You won't be able to go after the insurance company (or driver) for more money down the road.

What if You're Partly at Fault for the Crash?

Very rarely is one driver 100% responsible for a car accident. In most cases, one driver is primarily at fault while the other is nominally at fault. For example, imagine someone hits you from behind. They argue that they only hit you because your brake lights malfunctioned.

Indiana courts follow the "modified comparative negligence" rule for situations like this. This fault system allows plaintiffs to recover money damages if they are less than 51% at fault. The rule also holds that the court will reduce the plaintiff's damages by their percentage of fault.

In the above example, the jury may find that you were 20% at fault since your brake lights didn't work. If you sued the defendant for $100,000, the judge would reduce your damages by 20%, or $20,000.

What Is the Average Car Accident Settlement in Indiana?

There's no way to determine how much your car or truck accident settlement is worth. When you meet with your attorney for your free case review, they may give you a ballpark figure. But they can't promise you'll get a specific amount.

The value of your personal injury case depends on the following:

  • The nature and severity of your injuries
  • Whether your lawyer can gather evidence to support your claim
  • Whether you missed time from work due to your injuries
  • If you'll need future medical treatment, such as long-term physical therapy
  • Your current medical expenses
  • Whether you have witness statements showing the other driver was at fault
  • If your medical records document your serious injuries

There's never a guarantee that your case will settle. If you hire an attorney with years of experience handling these cases, your chances of receiving fair compensation increase. They'll demand that the insurance company pay you the money you deserve.

Your attorney must include a demand for damages when they file your civil complaint. This includes economic and non-economic damages. You may deserve some or all the following:

  • Medical bills and future medical treatment
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

Remember that the courts rarely award punitive damages in a car accident case. The judges only award these damages when they want to punish the defendant. Unless the other driver was under the influence during the crash, you will not likely get punitive damages.

How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Indiana?

Every state has a law for how long a plaintiff has to file a legal claim. This law is the statute of limitations. In Indiana, the statute of limitations for personal injury is two years. The same is true for wrongful death cases from a car crash.

The clock starts on the date of the accident. If you miss this deadline, the judge will dismiss your lawsuit and lose your chance to pursue damages.

Talk to a Local Lawyer About the Indiana Car Accident Settlement Process

Most car accident cases don't make it to trial. But the settlement process could become complicated if the accident caused serious injuries or the insurance company denies your claim.

An experienced personal injury attorney in Indiana can guide you through your settlement process. Contact an experienced car accident attorney to learn about your legal rights today.

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